When Ellah Foreman, 4, goes to a birthday party she takes her own food including her own wee cake.
Ellah is allergic to eggs and nuts, so can't eat birthday cake. To ensure she doesn't miss out her mum, Ngaire Foreman, makes her an egg-free, beautifully decorated, cupcake.
"Recently we were at family gathering. It was a catered event. We don't know if the food she ate had nuts or eggs. She ate it thinking I had given it to her and I hadn't. She came flying in, ‘the cake is hurting me'. She had an allergic reaction, vomited and started swelling up."
This is food allergy awareness week and according to figures from Allergy New Zealand, food allergy affects up to one in 10 children under the age of 5 years.
It is a complex and stressful condition to manage and yet little understood by others, a spokeswoman said.
And it can be lonely.
There's not much help in Taranaki, Foreman, who lives near Inglewood, said.
She follows Allergy New Zealand on Facebook.
"It's nice knowing we're not the only ones struggling along. There are other people out there. At times it does feel a bit lonely."
When the family goes out Ellah will ask if the food has eggs and nuts in it. "Especially after her last reaction, because she was so embarrassed by it."
Cooking without eggs can provide a challenge and Foreman has found Pinterest and the Allergy New Zealand websites are both very helpful.
And there is another website that lists foods that don't contain eggs or nuts, to help when she goes to the supermarket.
"Ellah's not as severe as some children, but every time we think ‘is this the time she's going to have an anaphylactic reaction'?"
It was obvious from when Ellah was a tiny baby that there was something wrong, Foreman said.
When she was four weeks old she screamed constantly.
"We were up at A and E, at the GP was trying to figure out what was wrong with her. They thought it was reflux, so tried medication for that and it didn't work. You could see she was in pain. She wasn't gaining weight or anything like that. It was a nightmare."
They decided Ellah had a milk allergy, so Foreman tried goat's milk, soy milk, nothing worked.
"Here's my baby at 4 months old living on boiled water. I had to put her on solids just to get something into her. In the meantime I was going through hell."
As Ellah got older Foreman "asked and begged" for food allergy tests.
When she gave Ellah a bit of peanut butter her face "welted up".
When she ate eggs she had the same reaction.
"It was a constant battle trying to fight the health system. Battling for a diagnosis."
- Taranaki Daily News
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